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2018 9/2 Philippians 2: 25-30 THE MIND OF CHRIST (3): IN EPAPHRODITUS

Philippians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  51:31
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THE MIND OF CHRIST (3): IN EPAPHRODITUS (Phil. 2:25-30) September 2, 2018 Read Phil 2:25-30 – Think you have to be great for God to use you? I Cor 1: 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.” So, God uses nobodies to take a message to everybody about Somebody. Good news for us nobodies! He didn’t choose us because we were in “Who’s Who?” We didn’t even make “Who’s not?” In choosing us, He went to the bottom of the barrel -- like the Nuggets choosing me in the first round. But God did it, so He’d get the glory. Epaphroditus is a little person who was big to God bc he lived out the mind of Christ. With Paul under house arrest in Rome, the Philippians put love into action. They gook a collection to help defer his living expenses. Then they sent Epaphroditus on the 800-mile, 6-week journey to deliver the goods. And finally, they gave enough that Epaph could stay on to help in any way needed. Epaphroditus had no notoriety like Paul and Timothy. He did not shepherd the flock or write nothing. He was just a faithful man who could be trusted with a perilous mission – a man who had the mind of Christ. He’s Paul’s 3rd example. If Paul shows self-sacrifice; Timothy how to play second fiddle; then Epaphroditus shows us faithfulness – doing little things well. In v. 25 Paul gives 4 roles Epaphroditus played that show the mind of Christ: “25 I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need.” I. As a Brother He Put Others Above Self Isn’t brother a great term? It speaks of family – where God is Father and Jesus is elder brother to all of us. Believers are “children of God” (Jn 1:12). So God is our Father. And Heb 2:11 tells us: “For he who sanctifies [Jesus] and those who are sanctified all have one source [God the Father]. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers [and sisters].” So Jesus our older brother – making us all part of an incredible family of God. It’s a relationship stronger than any physical tie. Jesus said in Luke 18:29: “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.” So welcome to the family. 1 There’s one thing about families. They stick together. They fight each other, but let someone outside threaten and they circle the wagons, quickly. When I was in 6th grade a gang of us were playing baseball at the local school. Some older kids came by and began to bully us. I was soon in a verbal battle which threatened to turn physical. But just as things reached critical mass, my 6’3”, 220 pound of solid muscle dad showed up. A younger brother made record time running two blocks home to get help – same brother that wouldn’t think twice about taking a swing if I done him wrong – but let an outsider intrude – circle the wagons. Families at their best care for each other. So Paul calls Epaphroditus, “brother.” Why? Because he was – and because he acted like it. Paul instructed in 3b: “in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Epaphroditus personified that. In the first place he volunteered to take a perilous 6-week journey to a hostile environment. In that sense he reminds me of the missionaries who went to Central Africa between 1880 and 1910 knowing the death rate – on average 1 in 3 died in their first year. They often took their own coffins along. That was the mentality of Epaphroditus. He got sick, too, probably before he reached Rome. V. 30: “For he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.” Sounds like he nearly died just getting to Paul. He started out; got sick; then sicker. He was probably urged to turn back, but he kept going. He was determined to help Paul – putting Paul’s concerns ahead of his own. But then he got conflicted. The Philippians had heard of his illness and were concerned. So 26he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill.” He’s distressed that they are distressed! It’s a strong word (αδημονεω) – deep anguish – used of Jesus in Gethsemane. Epaphroditus was a brother who cared more for the interests of others than his own. Just following the footsteps of his older brother, Jesus, who was so concerned for our lost condition that He came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mrk 10:45). That’s our example. So, are we faithful brothers and sisters who put the interests of others above our own – or selfish, spoiled, brats who put self first? At the 2012 London Olympics, Spanish runner Ivan Fernandez was in 2nd place in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, trailing the leader, Abel Mutai from Kenya by a long way. But Mutai mistakenly thought he had crossed the finish line when he was actually 10 meters short. Fernandez realized the gold was his if he just kept going. Instead, he gestured to Mutai and guided him to the finish line – ahead of himself – settling for silver when he could have had gold. Fernandez said, “I 2 couldn’t have closed the gap if he hadn’t made a mistake. When I saw him stopping, I knew I wasn’t going to pass him.” Putting the interests of others above himself. Like Jesus; like Paul, like Epaphroditus; like us? II. As a Worker He Finished the Task The 2nd thing Paul calls Epaphroditus is a fellow worker. He didn’t quit. He wasn’t about to turn back – illness or no. Don’t you love to work with people who you can count on – who follow through when they commit? Jesus did. He came to earth to accomplish a lot of things. Among those was I Jn 3:8: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” How did He do that? By dying to pay the penalty for our sin. That obliterated Satan’s great weapon – his ability to rightly accuse us. No more! Heb 2:14b says Jesus intentionally went to the cross so that “through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.” At the moment of Satan’s greatest victory, Jesus turned it into his greatest defeat. That’s why just before He died He said, “Tetelestai!” “It is finished!” The sweetest words in human history – “It is finished.” Satan was destroyed and salvation finished for every believer. Right then and there. He finished the job. Do we – finish the job? How many Xns, so-called, never even get in the game? Xns in name only. How many are truly faithful to their calling? I want to be one, don’t you? During the Revolutionary War an officious young Lt was berating a group of soldiers trying to get some canons unstuck from a deep mud. An officer, riding by, saw what was going on, dismounted, stepped into the mud and began to help the enlisted men. As he prepared to leave, he stepped up to the young man and said, “If you ever need help again, don’t hesitate to call on your commander.” When the Lt asked a friend who that was he replied, “That was General Washington, you fool!” We don’t want to be in that boat, do we? Let’s get in the game; and let’s finish what we start knowing He not only gave us the example, but He is with us always. III. As a Soldier He Was Committed to the Death Soldiers are committed. They know the risks when they sign on. Gnrl George Patton was famous for his quote: “The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other ______ die for his.” Great, but not always possible. Epaphroditus was all in – whatever the cost – which was nearly his life. 3 27 Indeed he was ill, near to death.” Okay, so why didn’t Paul heal him? Why did he allow illness to continue? Did he have the power? No question of that. II Cor 12:11b-12: “For I was not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing. 12 The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works.” Practical example? Ephesus in Acts 19:11 And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.” Paul unquestionably had apostolic power. But, we see nothing of it later. He doesn’t heal Epaphroditus. In II Tim 4:20b: “I left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus.” Why didn’t he heal him? When Timothy had stomach problems Paul advised in I Tim 5:23: “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.” Why not heal him and be done with it? James advises in 5:14: “Is anyone among you sick? [Call the faith healer! No. He says] Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” Listen, Jesus ministry was authenticated by miracles showing His absolute authority over everything. The apostles were given that power to authenticate their ministries in new places. But even in the heyday of miracles during apostolic times they were used judiciously. Paul’s comment indicates they were mainly to authenticate apostles and their message. As the gospel spread and as the NT was written, miracles declined. Miracles were never intended to be the main event. One miracle always results in the need for another. If it doesn’t come, those whose faith depends on the miracle fall away. Miracles were not then nor are they now the end all. The Word is the end all. Rom 10:17: “Faith comes by [what? Miracles?!] Faith comes by hearing and hearing thru the Word of Christ.” That’s the focus, and anything that takes the focus from that is a distraction. Does that mean God never heals? No. Does it mean we should never ask for healing? No. But we should never demand it. It’s not our right. You say, “But there’s that place that says ‘with his stripes we are healed.’ So it is our right to be healed.” Right! But read the rest of Isa 53:5: “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah’s talking about spiritual healing! – forgiveness, peace -- not physical healing. We’ll get that. But not in this life. No one ever got out alive yet! 4 Listen, God is often far more glorified by our suffering well than He would be by healing everyone. Thus, Phil 1:29: “For it has been granted [graced] to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.” Suffering is the gift; not healing! It’s a privilege good soldiers are committed to. God eventually did heal Epaphroditus, not miraculously but thru the normal course of events. Meantime, he soldiered on as should we. Paul elaborates in v. 30: “for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.” “Risking” – παραβολεύομαι -- means “to throw aside” – voluntary exposure to danger -used of gambling. A later group of Xns who ministered to prisoners and those sick with communicable diseases called themselves Parabolani – the Gamblers, taking Epaphroditus as their model. They went where others wouldn’t go. When Carthage suffered a severe plague in 252 the inhabitants were so scared they would not touch the dead bodies even to bury them. Cyprian, pastor of the church, led Xns in ministering to the sick and dying, burying hundreds of corpses – leaving a powerful testimony to the unbelieving that turned many to Christ. All of them – Paul, Epaphroditus, the “Gamblers” and Cyprian’s group were merely good soldiers, following the mind of Christ who became “obedient to death, even death on a cross”. Soldiers implies battle, but we’ve lost our wartime mentality. Comfort is our game! War means sacrifice. Fifty-six men signed the Declaration of Independence, but it cost them dearly. Five were captured, tortured and killed by the British. Twelve had homes ransacked and burned. Two lost sons in the war. Another 2 had POW sons. Nine fought and died. When Gen Cornwallis took Thomas Nelson’s home as HQs, Nelson insisted that Washington open fire on it. His home was destroyed and he died bankrupt. John Hart was driven from his wife’s deathbed and later lost his own life. War is costly. Xn soldiers are willing to pay the price. They have a wartime mentality, willing to risk all, like Epaphroditus, like Paul, like Jesus. Gamblers for the sake of Jesus Christ. IV. As a Minister He deserved Honor Paul wanted to send Epaphroditus home for his sake and that of the concerned Philippians. But he feared they might think Epaphroditus was remiss in not staying. Thus this affirmation. Look at his parting comment: 29 So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men.” ”Don’t just receive him – receive him with all joy; and don’t just receive him with joy – honor him – and don’t just honor him, honor all who are like him.” Who are those? They’re all the little people doing little things in a fine way for a great God. 5 All glory ultimately goes to God, right? But God is glorified when we honor fellow servants -- not as cult heroes – please, no celebrities. How we have adopted the world’s celebrity culture in the church – thus rather than start a new church, we open a new facility with the celebrity pastor on the big screen. Next we’ll have a personal hologram of Rick Warren or Bill Hybels or Tim Keller in every pulpit. No matter how good the pastor, that can’t be healthy. We make cult figures out of mere men to the detriment of the glory of God. But to honor those doing little things very well exalts God, and Paul commends it to the Philippians. So let’s remember to recognize contributions, commend faithful servants and encourage all who will give the glory to Him. Conc – Epaphroditus lived it, didn’t he? The mind of Christ. A little person, doing a little job in a fine way for a great God. Faithful at any cost as a brother, worker, soldier and minister. Ever hear of Edward Kimball? He was a shoe store assistant in Chicago who also taught SS. He took his calling so seriously that he spent hours of his free time visiting some of the street urchins in Chicago’s inner city to drum up business (oh, for teachers like that). One of those street kids gave his life to Christ and despite having little education he became the greatest evangelist of the 19th century – D. L. Moody. All because of Edward Kimball’s faithfulness. But the story doesn’t end there. In 1879 Moody led F. B. Meyer to the Lord. He became a preacher who won W. J. Chapman to Christ. Chapman became a preacher who witnessed to a baseball played named Billy Sunday who came to faith in Christ. He later held an evangelistic service in Charlotte, NC that was so successful that when he had to leave he invited evangelist Mordecai Ham to preach – and a young man named Billy Graham gave his life to Christ. You don’t know Edward Kimball – but God does because he was a man in whom the mind of Christ was lived out with results that never end. And so can we. Let’s pray 6
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